A couple of weeks ago I started playing Pokémon Go along with a few of my colleagues. We were immediately hooked and weren’t surprised when it began to make news headlines around the world. The game uses GPS to allow you to explore real world locations looking for virtual Pokémon which you can then catch and collect. It also utilises your phone’s camera to make those virtual creatures appear in the real world. It was this feature that really appealed to us at the museum and the idea to run a Pokémon event within the building was born.
The museum has a number of advantages for people who want to play the game. We have several in game PokeStops located around our building which players can use to replenish their supplies or place lures. One of these stops is our own bridge (the rather amusingly titled ‘Antiquated transport link’). Another major advantage we have is free WiFi throughout the building so players don’t have to eat into their mobile data. We also provide a safe environment for people to play. This is important as one concern that has been raised about the game is the issue of child safety and that the game could be used to lure people into danger. Hopefully by playing within the museum we can allow people to focus on the fun aspects of the game. Our aim was to come up with an event that could take advantage of these assets and get as many people as possible interacting with the galleries in a new way. My colleague, Edd Thomas, and I were tasked with putting together this event.
In order to encourage people to come and play within the museum we invested in some lures which can be placed on certain locations within the game in order to attract Pokémon. We ran lures on various locations around the building between 11 and 4 o’clock. We were aware that as the game is played on mobile phones it might be difficult for us to see how many people were actually taking part. For this reason we came up with a number of ways to help us gauge the number of participants. We placed signs around the galleries informing people where PokeStops could be reach by GPS. We thought that this might help us to identify players if we could see them congregating around the signs. We also wanted players to engage with us and the museum’s collections. To achieve this we made some badges that could be given out to players.
We awarded badges to people who had taken artistic photographs and encouraged them to share their pictures on Twitter using the hashtag #bmagpokehunt. Another way we devised to get people to engage with us was to set up a board by the bridge café which we used as a hub. This was where we gave away leaflets and badges but we also asked people to report back to us with their sightings. We recorded all Pokémon sightings on the board so that people could see where other people had caught different varieties of Pokémon and hopefully they would then be able to track one down for themselves.
Our first badge of the day was awarded to Tom from our security team who managed to catch a Squirtle in the galleries before the museum had even opened. Initially when we placed our first lures we were mainly attracting Drowzees, a sort of yellow Tapir with the power to hypnotise. This was a bit of a disappointment as Drowzees are incredibly common around the museum (the implications of this are not lost on us). However, as the day went on we began to attract greater varieties of Pokémon and many people (including myself) were able to catch types that they hadn’t caught before. By the end of the day we had recorded over fifty varieties of Pokémon that people had caught within the building. We also gave away over fifty badges to people who showed us their photos, either in person or on the #bmagpokehunt. At one point the hashtag was even trending on Twitter in Birmingham! You can still view some of the photos on the hashtag.
Whilst it is difficult to give an exact number I would estimate that we had a few hundred participants on the day which was fantastic considering it was the first time we had tried anything of this kind, the whole event had been put together in a very short space of time and we had only advertised on our website and social media platforms for a few days. It was wonderful to see people engaging with our building and collections in a completely new way. The excellent response from the public means that we will now be able to run more events like this in the future.